Arts / ‘Exceptional musicians’ gather for Bowral festival

Turkish-Australian soprano Ayse Goknur Shanal, photo Peter Hislop

AUTUMN is the season for festivals in this region and coming up soon among the pre-Easter offerings is the Bowral Autumn Music Festival, now in its 12th year.

Set in historic St Jude’s Anglican Church, the event will see eight chamber concerts performed over three days by artists from the four corners of the globe.

Violinist and member of the Acacia Quarter, Myee Clohessy, is the artistic director of this festival, and told “CityNews” that the line-up would include pianist Phillip Shovk, violinist Charmian Gadd, horn player Robert Johnson, soprano Ayse Goknur Shanal, harpist Verna Lee, organist Brett McKern and the Acacia Quartet—quite a coup for the Southern Highlands.

Pianist Phillip Shovk

The program will feature classics like Dvorak’s “American” String Quartet, Brahms’s Horn Trio, Prokofiev’s Cello Sonata and Bach’s Toccata and Fugue, Clohessy said, alongside lesser-known works by Golijov, Yazici, Cassado and Guastavino and exciting new compositions by Australian composers Gordon Kerry, Alice Chance, John Peterson and May Howlett. All four festival composers will be attending and presenting their works.

As well, the autumn festival will be distinguished by appearances from up-and-coming musicians  such as Makito Mizushima on organ, Lily Dai on cello and Leanne Jin on piano.

Throughout the weekend the organ at St Jude’s Church will be played by McKern and former festival director Allan Beavis, culminating in the Festival Church Service on Sunday morning at 10am.

The Acacia Quartet will be premiering two new Australian string quartets during the festival, Gordon Kerry’s String Quartet No 5 and John Peterson’s String Quartet No 3.

A work by the young composer Alice Chance will performed by The Song Company and the local Bowral Public School Singers and Johnson (ex-principal horn of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra) will perform “Nocturne II” by May Howlett.

Clohessy said: “I can’t tell you how excited I am getting about finally gathering all the musicians and composers here in Bowral… the legendary Charmian Gadd was once my violin teacher in Canberra and she was one of my big inspirations when she used to perform at the Musica Viva Festivals at Clubbe Hall when I was a young girl.”

It especially excites her that Turkish-Australian soprano Ayse Goknur Shanal, following a period of treatment for vocal damage, has made a full recovery and will be coming to Bowral to open the festival with a program for voice and harp.

“CityNews” reviewer Len Power recently praised Shanal’s “gift for embracing an audience with her down to earth and endearing manner”.

“Having all these exceptional musicians come here to share their favourite chamber music with us is going to be such a musical treat,” Clohessy said.

Bowral Autumn Music Festival, St Jude’s Church, 38 Bendooley Street, Bowral, March 23–25. Bookings to and all program details to



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